Trust the science

Letter to the Editor Marietta Times May 13, 2020 by Aaron Dunbar

“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been,” wrote prominent science fiction author Issac Asimov four decades ago. “The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.’”

I don’t know that a more succinct explanation exists for the era in which we live.

How else to make sense of the heavily armed protesters demanding an end to stay-at-home orders during a deadly pandemic? Or a President who casually floats the idea of injecting disinfectants in order to treat the coronavirus, leading to a reported spike in calls to poison control centers throughout the country?

How do you explain Mike Pence’s visit to the Mayo Clinic without wearing a mask? How do you explain Jared Kushner referring to 58,000 dead Americans as a “great success?” How do you explain a political party that brazenly promotes itself as being pro-life, now pushing for the reopening of the country despite explicit warnings from medical professionals, and arguing that the loss of a few million lives is a worthwhile price to pay for a strong economy?

How do you explain the fact that many of the same people witnessing this insanity will (literally) die on the hill of denying any of this? Of insisting they were right all along despite observable reality?

Anyone who’s paid any attention to our nation’s gross mishandling of the climate crisis can hardly be surprised by the turn of events now unfolding in response to COVID-19. As a Vox article from last month astutely pointed out, “One of the strongest and most robust predictors of social distancing behavior is found in attitudes toward another major challenge facing the United States: climate change.”

I really do not know how to lay this out more explicitly:

I do not know more than scientists. Neither do you.

You do not know more than medical professionals. You do not know more than epidemiologists. You do not know more than the international community of climate scientists, who overwhelmingly agree on the reality of anthropogenic climate change, and the unprecedented threat it poses to humanity’s future.

I don’t know better, you don’t know better, and neither does the President, whose cult of ignorance appears endlessly willing to bend objective reality in order to accommodate whatever pseudoscientific delusions happen to pop into his head on any given day.

The only way we can ever hope to grow is by possessing the humility to admit that there are things we simply do not know as individuals. Instead of manufacturing theories from whole cloth based on what we want to hear, perhaps it would be wiser to defer to those who’ve spent their entire lives devoted to studying whatever it is we’re unsure about. Maybe it’s time to stop paying attention to the President and his henchmen, whether on climate change or COVID-19, and to finally start listening to the scientists.

Individual ignorance is one thing. But when huge segments of the population are willing to accept certifiable falsehoods as truth, we all inevitably suffer the consequences.